ENCORE gratitude!

We’ve just started another session of ENCORE at the Y Victoria!!

For those of you who don’t know – ENCORE is a free 8 week After Breast Cancer Exercise Program provided by the YWCA. I did 3x sessions of ENCORE as a participant and then was asked to come back as a volunteer. So I did the Y training and now I am an Aquafit instructor and one of the facilitators for the program.  :)

I have to thank some of our sponsors who have stepped up with support for ENCORE.

12598988_1393977780908945_1494058692_nFirst up is GOOD LIFE JUICE. They donated juice for this session and it’s so nice to have something refreshing, healthy and delicious to drink after a morning of exercising. Thank you so much for supporting Encore!! :)

And also to HIPPIE FOODS for providing delicious snacks and treats for us to nosh on after our exercises.

A big thanks to SWIMCO for providing Encore with gift cards and a discount code. It’s a fantastic place to buy a bathing suit – especially for those of us who have scars, are uniboobs or have no breasts. They have friendly knowledgeable staff who help you find a suit that fits you properly. Yay Swimco.

12558757_1672549003005529_1876419215_nAnd thanks to LYMPHEDIVAS for supporting us with a discount code for our participants and for making a beautiful product for those of us who have to wear compression sleeves for lymphedema. Because if you have to wear something every day it might as well be beautiful.

If there is anyone out there with products or services that we might find useful for our ENCORE program – please send me an e-mail. We are always looking for more support.    :)

 

 

 

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Patient Patient ….

I’m not a patient patient…  :)

When I had my drain removed – I was so happy to be free, flat and feeling super flatastic that I really over did it the first week. I’m just so ready to PARTY but my body isn’t ready yet.

I taught my ENCORE class 10 days after my surgery!!!! I was actually feeling really good that day and thought if I went slow it would be fine but the next day I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I over did it. Whoops.

So I’ve been doing a lot of laying around. Trying to be mellow. Trying to remember that I’m only 3 weeks post surgery and of course I’m going to feel fatigue. Of course my skin is going to be sensitive. Just chill.

One of the hardest things to deal with is my skin. It’s so super sensitive and it doesn’t matter what I wear. It starts to feel irritated after a few hours. So I’ve been sitting around my house topless a lot. ha ha. It’s not painful but it’s so irritating that it makes me cranky and exhausted.

12501495_499305260271022_1091503141_nSo I’ve been meditating to help center me. Meditation is something I’ve dabbled in for a while but have really fallen in love with this last year. My other form of meditating is watching dumb movies. :)

I can’t go in the pool yet and the only exercise I’m allowed to do right now is walk and my post-surgery exercises. Those are probably why I’m so fatigued.

The exercises are tough but are helping me get my range of motion back and because I’ve done this before – I get a do-over. :) I wasn’t dedicated to exercising last time and I lost a lot of range of motion in my right shoulder and had to go for physical therapy.

So I’m being religious about my exercises but every time I do them I’m gently pulling and stretching the surgical area. If you think about how much skin they remove (during the mastectomy) it causes minor irritation to the area and I have to heal from that every time I do my exercises.

If anyone has done physical therapy before … then you know how exhausting it is. My body is working extra hard right now so fatigue and a little bit of post surgery depression has kicked in. The depression is just about not being able to go out and have fun but I just have to remind myself that it’s only temporary … and to be PATIENT!!

12555947_801932306600917_1531099182_nIn other news I was officially discharged from care from the Cancer Agency. My oncologist told me I was too healthy to come to her clinic anymore.  :)

It’s such a weird feeling. I felt happy-ish but mostly just … weirdly … sad. Or not sad. I felt almost nothing. I can’t explain the feeling.

It’s been a crazy 3 year roller coaster of heartache and epic change… and here I am on the other side of it alive but shaken. I think I don’t want to celebrate being discharged because once you’ve had cancer – you’re never really discharged. It’s always looming like a monster under the bed.

I still can’t really process everything that’s happened to me. Not sure how. I’m not even sure what’s next for me … time to start daydreaming.  :)

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FLAT!!!

Oh boy … my surgery went great. I’m feeling great. Everything is great.

I got the call Monday. “We have a space for surgery. Want to do it TOMORROW?” Eeeeep!!!

I said yes and Gerry and I went into panic mode. We ran to the grocery store and stocked up on gingerale, food for the week and anything that would make Gerry’s life easier when I was convalescing.

We woke up at 5:30am so we could be at the hospital for 7am. I could not sleep. I felt all excited in side like I was going to Disneyland or it was Xmas morning.

I know it might seem weird to some of you that I was excited about having surgery to remove my breast … but I’ve lived as a 1 breasted cyclops for almost 3 years and I have never “gotten used to it” or found a way to be comfortable in my body since my initial mastectomy back in 2013.

I’ve tried every prosthetic ever made from the $13 insert to a $450 breast prosthetic. I’ve tried special $80 tank tops and I’ve tried just uni-boobing it with a Lulu bra. I’ve tried no bra (that’s a weird feeling). Everything and nothing made me comfortable and I knew deep in my gut that I needed to be symmetrical.

These are the things I brought to the hospital:

  • A top that was easy to “step into” rather then pull over top of my head -Pants that were easy to pull up.
  • Shoes that were slip-on
  • A hat – so I would feel cool and not have to worry about my hair  :)
  • Something for comfort. I brought my “baby” which is a baby blanket my best-bestie sent me for xmas. I’ve had many different baby-blankets in my 47 years (and I have no shame about it) but this one is the best. I was coveting my friends sons blanket when I was visiting her in Toronto and so she sent me one for the holiday. It’s a swaddling blanket by Petit Pehr and it’s the first thing I asked Gerry for when I woke up. I wrapped it around my head and fell asleep.  :)
  • A small bottle of unscented hand cream. Hospitals make my skin dry …
  • A small picnic bag full of essentials: bottle of green smoothie (banana, spinach, protein powder, flax, coconut water). A protein bar, a couple of pieces of chocolate, my own personal stash of ginger-ale.
  • A good attitude. Smile and say thank you to everyone who takes care of you. Especially the nurse you puke on twice.

We checked in. They set me up in my bed and then we waited. SO MUCH WAITING!! I think that’s what makes it so nerve wracking. There’s so much time to think. Poor Gerry had the worst of it – I get to sleep for a few hours – he gets to worry for a few hours.

Always remember that the partner that is awake is the one who needs the most support!

They wheeled me away and Gerry and I said our “see ya laters”. We have this cute thing we do when we say good-bye. We do it every day and as Gerry went around the corner I thought he forgot to do it. He didn’t. He popped his head back around the corner and did it and I started crying. I love him.

They wheeled me into the waiting area. This was the same operating area where I had my port installed back in 2013 so I recognized where I was. I had a nice conversation with the man beside me. We talked about how hungry we were (no food after midnight) and he told me about how he grew up in Amsterdam during the war and they had no food.

He said even though they had no food they talked about food all the time. He said “Isn’t that silly? You’d think we would try to avoid talking about food.” I asked him if he had rations but he said nothing. Then he slapped his hands together to impress upon me how little they had. “Nothing!” SLAP. “We had absolutely no food. I ate a rock once. We did have the soup kitchen where we could eat once a day. It was broth with a small piece of potato in it. That’s it…

He was lovely … it was interesting to hear about his history and then they whisked him off to his surgery.

I knew I had a few more minutes so I decided to talk to my body like I did last time I had surgery. I held my left breast in my hand and I said:

Dear Breast.
You’re so cute. Like seriously. So super super cute. With your little nipple and your perky under boob. I love you. You’ve been such a source of pleasure for so many years. I’m going to miss you.

But listen friend. It’s time to go. The right side was not healthy and left in a hurry and now it’s time for you to go. It’s not so much you but more about me. You don’t work on your own. You’re a package deal … and without your right friend – you just don’t work for me anymore. This part of my life with breasts is over and I’m ok with that. I love you breast but you’ve got to go – today we say good bye.

Then I looked around to make sure I was alone and I gave my nipple a little pinch so I could remember what it feels like. Owch!! :)

When they wheeled me into the operating room I was ready. I said hi to all the nurses. I reminded them that I wanted to be flat. I wasn’t doing reconstruction but instead deconstruction and I wanted to be flat.

I also reminded my surgeon about wanting to be flat as well. As I drifted off to sleep I said “Remember. I want to be flatty flat flat flat.” I thought it was hilarious and when I woke up from surgery I was laughing. Weird.

My surgery was just day surgery (kind of crazy huh?) so I got to go home in the afternoon. Gerry was helping me get dressed and he pulled up my tanktop and he said “You look beautiful Sarah. You look just like you should.

Gosh … he’s amazing isn’t he?? Gerry is my hero. He has been with me for every doctors appointment, every surgery, every panic attack. I’m so lucky to be married to my best friend.

Recovery has been ok. There isn’t a lot of pain with the surgery if you can believe it … the most uncomfortable part is the drain which I was lucky to have to removed a week after my surgery. The drain makes me feel claustrophobic so as soon as it was removed I felt like a million bucks.

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Yesterday was 8 days post surgery and my first day out and about without my breasts. Who needs big boobs when you can wear big earrings??

I’m trying to think of a good hashtag. I want to empower other BC survivors to not hide their mastectomies behind scarfs and ruffles but instead be proud of the choices they made to survive cancer.

This final surgery of mine inspired me to stop chasing after my teenage body and I have decided to finally (after many years of body dysmorphia) to embrace and love this body of mine and to dress to impress!!!

My body has been to war and back… And I love myself today. Exactly as it is. Every scarred up inch of it. Any ideas for a good hashtag? Post below!! #flatfashion #flatshion #flatastic #flatbulous #flatisthenewblack #noboobsnoproblem #effyourboobystandards #55378008 #asiam

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Day 2 of #breastlessness and I am going through my closet.

I have so many cool dresses that I never wore as a uni-boob because I found wearing a prosthetic so uncomfortable. It’s so nice to slip something on and feel symmetrical.

My friend Kimmee came to visit me when I was convalescing and she said “You have your sparkle back!

I have to agree … being symmetrical again makes me feel so good.

“I’m happy. Hope you’re happy too…”

 

 

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Roller Coaster!!

Holy cow … What a crazy roller-coaster the end of 2015 was…

I got a call on Dec 29th from my surgeons receptionist asking me if I wanted to have my deconstruction surgery on Thursday. HUH? WHAT? “This Thursday? New Years Eve?” I gulped.

I had previously asked her to put me on a waiting list if any empty spots showed up because the thought of having to wait til Sept/Oct 2016 was distressing to me. My left breast makes me feel stuck. Like half of me lives in the past and the other half lives in the now. Anyway she said they had some space on New Years Eve if I wanted it and I of course said yes and then went into panic mode. :)

I ran to the grocery store and stocked up on food so Gerry wouldn’t have to think about what to make me. I ran around buying medical sponges to wash my body with the day-of surgery. I did all the errands I’ve been putting off … I was ready.

I got a call on Wed. Are you still  in for surgery on Thursday? YES! She told me she would call me Wed after 6 to give me all the details about what time to arrive to the hospital, etc.

She called at 6. I got bumped. No surgery. Ugh. I guess there was an emergency and I got bumped. It’s ok. I wasn’t upset but I did feel like UGH.  :(

Gerry and I went out that night to a Kirtan for New Years and we sang and chanted the night away. It was lots of fun and a wonderfully grounding way to spend our night. We went to sleep and in the middle of the night around 3am Fergus threw up. Then he threw up again. And again.

The next day he wouldn’t eat … wouldn’t drink water… so around 6:30pm we took him to the Central Victoria Vet Hospital. It’s the only place in town that’s open 24 hours and was open during the holiday.

They gave him fluids and medication. The first vet we saw was lovely and thought he was having a bout of pancreatitis again. He wanted to keep him the night… ok … I won’t bore you with all the details but when I went to visit Fergus he had diarrhea, wasn’t eating and was highly stressed.

I took him for a walk. Cleaned up his backside (they handed him to me with his entire back end covered in shit) and I started to panic … I felt like he was getting worse. Not better. I had a feeling I needed to get him out of there.

After a giant mix-up with an overworked vet (who told me she had been working 15 hours straight and was exhausted) he had to spend another night. Ugh. But we came up with a plan to bring him home the next day. We got him home. Got him to eat and the next day we saw my vet and she took him off all the meds the hospital had prescribed. They were over medicating him and with medications that were giving him an upset stomach. :(

She gave him a shot of Cerenia and by the time we got home (15 minutes later) I knew he was ok again. He was bright eyed and asking for food. THANK DOG!!

heidiHe’s on the mend. Doing better every day … He lost 2lbs in the 3 days he was in the hospital. Ugh. That’s a lot for a tiny 13lb dog. But he’s now putting on weight and eating every time I put a bowlful of food down so I am happy with his progress.

My niece was in town visiting and it was so sweet to see them together. They grew up as puppies together.  :) They have a special bond.

We couldn’t leave Fergus for more then an hour or two so we spent a lot of time at home watching old VHS’s of Heidi when she was 3 & 4 years old.

It was so weird to watch my 20 year old niece watching videos of herself. It made me feel verrrrry old.  :)

tumblr_l1cmgzTaru1qakdf3o1_500So the first 11 days of 2016 have been a roller-coaster … and guess what? I got a call this afternoon that they can fit me in for my surgery TOMORROW! Eeek.

I’m scared and excited and sad and then excited again. It’s a roller-coaster! Even though I’m nervous … I’m ready.

In the immortal words of Hedwig: “To walk away, you’ve got to leave something behind…” and I’m ready.

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Bowie

 12471515_10153262480257536_2550244488157024373_oA few years ago I did a calendar paying homage to some of my fav album covers with a vegan‬ twist.

I spent hours doing my own makeup and when we went to shoot the photo we realized I had done the makeup in reverse. Oh no! I hadn’t flipped the photo!! Ha!

We talked about flipping my face in Photoshop but that always looks weird so we rescheduled the shoot for the next day so I could get the makeup perfect. I knew he’d never see it but I still wanted to make him proud.

Bowie taught me so much … with each new album and each new incarnation. Most importantly he showed me that I could be my most creative self without shame. He forged a path and made a safe space for weirdos like me to assemble. Even if it was by myself – worshiping at the alter of my record player. :)

My heart aches with the loss of David Bowie and I miss him so much already but am so thankful he left us this new album ‪#‎blackstar‬ to ponder…

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Thank you T!

Every once in a while I get fan mail that makes my heart pound. This one came from T and I’m so glad they wrote me.

Hi Sarah,
I am an aspiring vegan chef myself and loved La Dolce Vegan. Awesome recipes without some of the pretentious ingredients I can’t afford. I love to cook and cooking through your cookbook has been great.

But I’m also a recovering anorexic and someone that struggles with severe depression. And while paging through, looking for recipes I think that I could manage to get out of bed and eat, I stumbled upon spicy corn chip popcorn which is “a great snack for when you’re sitting around with your girlfriends watching Americas next top model and reveling in the fact that you can eat without guilt and that you don’t have an eating disorder“.

I love your recipes, your style, and your sense of humor but please keep in mind that not everyone is so fortunate as to not have an eating disorder. Please think about what you say and write; words have a profound impact. It won’t stop me from buying your cookbook but I’m definitely going to sharpie that part out in my AND the library copy so that nobody else has to feel the way I felt when I read it: ashamed of myself and disappointed. I have tons of respect for you and know that you are better than that part of the book.

Sincerely,
T

I wrote T back immediately and apologized. What a stupid weak attempt at a joke. I can’t even believe I wrote that passage. Ugh. Not funny.

I wrote about my struggle from an early age with an eating disorder in Garden of Vegan and when I had my mastectomy in 2013 it really brought back a lot of those issues I had when I was younger. It’s a daily struggle and a challenge and I am mortified that I wrote that joke or thought it was funny. Ugh. Apologies to everyone.

To quote Oprah quoting Maya Angelou: “When you know better. You do better.

I’m going to ask my publishers to remove that passage from any future pressings of LDV. I like the idea of everyone taking a sharpie to that joke and blacking it out.

Love you T. Thanks for writing me today.  :)

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2 years …

2 years ago today I finished the last of my radiation treatment.

Today I celebrated the day by working EXTRA hard at Aquafit and pushing my body to it’s limits. It felt amazing and I may have left a few tears in the pool. :)

lost

When I think about my last radiation day it feels like yesterday and like 20 years ago all rolled up into one lump.

Lump in my breast … Har Har :)

What I like to remember about that last day of radiation (besides being exhausted but grateful to be done my treatment) was that Gerry and I started watching all 121 episodes of LOST while I recuperated from radiation.

I highly recommend binge watching LOST if you have some down time because of illness. There isn’t one single boring episode. Yes it gets a little weird near the end but watching it all the way through from start to finish (with no commercials or waiting for the next season) was really incredible and the ending is beautiful. It all makes sense in the end. I swear.  :)

705de97a773f11e3aa2e124a91058a23_8There were so many parallels to what some of the characters were going through and what I was going through. Especially John Locke. All his sadness and anger and frustration. I could relate …

So today is a wonderful day. Here I sit at my computer 2 years later feeling amazing. Strong. Healthy. Happy.

I need some cake. Where’s my celebration cake?? Actually don’t get me a cake. I don’t like cake.

I’d rather eat a pickle. Get me a pickle.

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Propagandhi

failed_states_320WOOOT! One of my favourite bands is coming out West to play in Victoria (and other cities).

I just got my tickets and I could not be more stoked!!  :)

Tour info HERE.

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Vancouver

We very rarely go over to the mainland. We try to go once a month to see Gerry’s Mum and my parents … but the ferry takes 3+ hours (if you don’t hit traffic) plus it’s expensive – so it’s been a couple of few months since we’ve been over.

The night before we left for Van – we had our annual Tattoo Zoo holiday party. Almost all of our staff was able to make it (we missed you Nova) and their partners came over to the house. Gerry and I don’t entertain that often … so when we do … we like to REALLY do it up. It was fun. I love everyone we work with. We are so lucky to have so many cool, creative and dedicated people working at TZ.

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The next morning Ger, Fergus and I got up at the crack of dawn and hit the road to catch the ferry to the mainland. Fergus finally decided (after 15 years of us trying to get him to sit in the back seat) that sitting in the back seat would be a good idea. ha ha. What a weird control freak he is.   :)

12345695_1486656934976562_54628055_nWe had a really nice visit with Gerry’s Mum. We went out for dinner and then wandered around this two tiered weird mall. Why are malls so weird now??

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We also went through some photos and I found this gem. Don’t we look like babies? BABIES!! It’s crazy.

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The next day (while Gerry went to go look at motorcycles) I met up with my Dad and had a visit. While I was there a book called A Round For Fifty Years by Gerald Hill arrived by mail (such good timing on my part).

image

The book is a history of the theater company my Mum & Dad started in 1966. Next year is the 50th anniversary and they just released the book and next year are having a gala event in Regina.  The Globe Theatre was my parents first baby. I was their second. That’s why I’m more like a middle child. ha ha.

I was only able to get a quick look at the book but it’s really neat to see the impressive history encapsulated in book form and there were so many photos that I had never seen before.12362505_101410230233581_845868041_n

I’m so proud of my parents! :) I’m looking forward to going to the gala next year.

Later that night Gerry & I had a great dinner with my Dad & Step-Mum at NUBA. I didn’t get any photos because I ate my food so fast. Oh god it was delish. I wish NUBA would open up in Victoria (hint hint). We need some good Lebanese food in Victoria.

We stayed at the Silvia Hotel. It’s a little rough around the edges and the hallways are full of ghosts – but the location (English Bay) is beautiful and we can bring the dog (for no extra charge). 12362212_806246159486228_595666001_n

The next morning before we checked out … we went for a walk in Stanley Park. The last time I was there I was in between Phase 1 and Phase 2 of my chemos and I was pretty frail. This time I am full of vim and vigour and it feels like a dream that I was ever a frail, bald patient in the middle of cancer treatment. I almost can’t remember what it felt like.

The walk through the park and along the sea wall was beautiful …

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I also walked past my Zeyda’s old apartment. It’s right near The Sylvia Hotel.

12362470_1533988516919363_1036393996_nMy Zeyda and I had a complicated relationship but now all those things we used to argue about don’t seem important anymore … as I looked up at his condo all I could think was “I wish he was still here so I could give him a hug.”

All I remember now about Zeyda are the good things. Like how he taught me how to golf at the Pitch N Putt in Stanley Park. Or how he would send me back the letters I wrote him with my spelling errors corrected. Oy. It was so upsetting when I was a kid … but now I think it’s hysterical.

Gerry and I left for the ferry back home and I felt like we didn’t have enough time in Vancouver. We have so many friends in Van that I never get to see … so I think I’ll be coming back mid-Jan for a visit.

In other news … not looking at Facebook has made such a difference. I felt discombobulated for a few days but I feel like a FB fog has lifted. I still have to log-in every day and do my work on FB. I have several pages that I need to keep up to date with but I’ve been good at just doing my work and then closing the page.

And it appears that I am on trend because the NY Times just put out this article about being Addicted to Distraction. It’s pretty spot on.

I started reading A BOOK!!! My friend gave me Diane Keatons book Then Again and I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a while since I sat down and read. Isn’t that horrible??

In other news – we discovered last night that I had been over-paying the cable bill and we have a substantial credit with them. Eeeek. Don’t even ask how it happened … :) So I am in the process of claiming that money back. Oh geez. I feel like such a dumb-dumb. It’s amazing what happens when you’re not paying attention.

We also discovered we have been over-paying Gerry’s Medical plan … so pay attention to your bills friends. Look at them and make sure everything is hunky dory.

Oy Vey. What a week.

 

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ENCORE

HEY FRIENDS!!
Is there anyone out there who has a product they would like to donate to the ENCORE After Breast Cancer Exercise Program I volunteer for?

We are looking for yummy healthy food treats, or anything else related to wellness, exercise and healthy living.

Get in touch sarah@govegan.net if you would like to sponsor our program. :)

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